Seventh Day of Lent   10 comments

Jonah

Image Source = Cbl62

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Jonah 3:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying,

Get up; go to Nineveh, the great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.

So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.  Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.  And he cried out,

Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!

And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on a sackcloth.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.  Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh:

By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything.  They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water.  Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God.  All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands.  Who knows?  God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them and he did not do it.

Psalm 51:10-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

Do not case me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation,

and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

For you have no delight in sacrifice;

if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit,

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,

then you will delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;

then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Luke 11:29-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

When the crowds were increasing, he [Jesus] began to say,

This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.  For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation.  The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!

The Collect:

Bless us, O God, in this holy season, in which our hearts seek your help and healing; and so purify us by your discipline that we may grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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This is not sweet Jesus, Mr. Nice Messiah.  Jesus condemned the focus on the spectacular rather than on repentance.  He had come to draw people to God, and people demanded signs.  In Luke 9:51 he had turned his face toward Jerusalem, literally and figuratively.  Jesus was en route to his immediate destiny, was serious about it, and expected others to be serious, too.  He did not deal diplomatically with nonsense or abide fools easily.  If he seems harsh, consider the literary context.  The man had his excellent reasons.

In his rebuke of signs-seekers Jesus referenced the Queen of Sheba, who visited King Solomon, and the Book of Jonah, one of the great works of ancient satire.  The fictitious Jonah was a reluctant prophet who obeyed God only after disobeying him.  Jonah preached repentance to the vast city of Nineveh, to stave off divine judgment.  When he succeeded, Jonah was angry.  He did not understand that God is the lord of both judgment and mercy.

The Queen of Sheba and the residents of Nineveh were gentiles who responded favorably to God and God’s messengers.  In this respect they were unlike many of Jesus’ fellow Jews the third decade of the Common Era in Judea.  Many of the chosen people rejected Jesus, and it caused much frustration.

Unfortunately, much lingering resentment and misunderstanding between Christians and Jews feeds the sin of anti-Semitism.

The Jewish religious authorities of Jesus’ day were guardians of their traditions, which they considered sacred.  Jesus challenged them, and they responded (generally) defensively, as one might expect, given human nature.  Today institutionalized Christianity comes with its schools of traditions of varying ages and degrees of complexity.  And what if we are gravely mistaken, just as those attached to the Second Temple were?  Can we bear the thought?  Will we continue to wed ourselves to outmoded traditions rather than seek to emulate Jesus?

Consider another hypothetical scenario.  What if we Christians, generally speaking, possess an unduly narrow vision of divine mercy?  We benefit from this mercy; do we recognize how far it extends?  Do we condemn other friends of God we do not know are friends of God?  Do we fail to recognize potential friends of God who need merely to repent?  Do we write people off when we should see them as God sees them?  Do we not see what people can become?  My model here is Jesus, who recognized great potential in his Apostles, eleven of whom overcame their weaknesses in time to become great leaders of early Christianity.  In the Gospels the Apostles are mostly obtuse and occasionally petty.  Yet witness what they became.

I offer these thoughts for prayerful reflection.

KRT

Written on February 21, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/jonah/

Posted October 27, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2020, Episcopal Church Lectionary, March 4

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